AILA Letter to President Bush on Meeting with Vicente Fox

February 14, 2001

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush

As you journey to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Fox, we urge you to propose and formulate together true solutions to two issues: our current worker shortage and the undocumented status of many living in this country who are hardworking, taxpaying members of communities across this nation.  Such a solution would involve reforming our current immigration system.

Those who entered our country, especially during the last decade and largely from Mexico, helped create our recent economic boom and are needed, according to many economists and business leaders, to sustain our economic strength by performing jobs that otherwise would go unfilled.  Many are undocumented and entered the U.S. labor force in response to the acute shortage of workers.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that this shortage will continue for the next two decades because it is based on demographic factors.  The shortage is hitting the service sector particularly hard.

Our current immigration system impedes any solution to this problem for two reasons:  it lacks mechanisms that would allow these needed individuals to legally enter our country to perform important functions, and it does not provide a method to legalize the status of these vitally needed, essential workers who already are here.  A true solution would involve the creation of a functioning visa category that would increase the number of essential workers who enter this country legally every year, as well as a provision that would stabilize our labor force by providing workers already here and working with permanent residency status.  Such a solution also would ensure full labor and human rights protections and preserve family unity.

Senator Phil Gramm has been promoting a proposal that he believes would address the situation.  We disagree.  While details of his initiative have yet to be released, we find flaws in his proposal’s fundamental architecture because it would grant undocumented workers already working in this country the limited option of entering a one-year program after which they would have to return to Mexico. Furthermore, the employer sanctions provision Senator Gramm includes in his proposal flies in the face of the evidence that these sanctions do not work. While we commend Senator Gramm for calling attention to our flawed system, his solution is flawed as well.  A true solution would be based on the components we note above.

As you meet with President Fox, we also urge you to pursue ways in which the flows of goods, services, and people back and forth across our common border can be made safer, more orderly, and more efficient.  Effective border management and enforcement is an important issue for our two nations.  Our border with Mexico needs to be a place of orderly migration where human rights are respected, instead of a militarized zone where people's lives are put in danger and where the death toll and abuses mount daily.      

Mr. President, you said in your inaugural address that, as immigrants embrace American ideals, it “makes our country more, not less, American.”  You have an opportunity during your discussions with President Fox and as you begin your Administration to help immigrants embrace America.  We look forward to working with you on this important effort.


Jeanne A. Butterfield
Executive Director

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 01031759.